Can You Recover from This Bar?

You really need to check the ingredients on everything...

While wasting a perfectly good Sunday browsing through Amazon, I was served up an advertisement for a tasty and potentially healthy sounding Gatorade Whey Protein Recover Bar – Chocolate Chip flavor. Since I had just gotten back this past Friday from attempting to climb Mt Rainier, I was desperately in need of some recovery. Also, as regular readers here will know, recovery is one of the most important aspects of an older athletes regimen.

Before I pushed the magic Amazon “Buy with One Click”, however, I thought I would do a little due diligence.

As you can see from the photo, one of these “Recover” Bars has 41 grams of carbohydrates and 29 grams of sugar. It also has 360 calories. Is the bar itself what we need to “recover” from after the Insulin spike?  This really seems like a lot of sugar for a single bar whether I am recovering from something or not. However, to avoid the politics of low carb diets vs vegetarians and Paleo vs vegans and also considering that I am not a doctor or nutritionist, I went to the World Health Organization (WHO) for guidance.

Lo and behold, apparently the WHO in March of 2014 dropped its sugar intake recommendation from 10% of your daily calorie intake to 5%. Or, for an adult of a normal body mass index (BMI) that works out to about 6 teaspoons or 25 grams of sugar.

So, assuming that my trusty elementary school math hasn’t deserted me, the 29 grams of sugar in the Gatorade Recover Bar is about 4 grams of sugar more than an adult with normal BMI should be consuming in an entire day. Huh? Perhaps this isn’t such a good choice after all. 

Furthermore, if you look at the label even more closely you will see that the 41 grams of total carbohydrates are supposedly about 14% of your daily values.  And below it says that Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet and that your daily values may be different depending on your calorie needs. Interesting, so the 14% is for some fictitious person and not for you so beware of what the percentages are for you. But also realize that at 2000 calories in order for 41 grams of carbohydrates to be only 14% of your Daily Values, you need to be getting more than 60% of your calories from carbohydrates or about 293 grams and 1172 calories per day. This seems a bit high to start for your daily intake of carbohydrates.  Also if I am only eating 2000 calories per day, I just used up 20% of my whole day with the 360 calories in this one bar.

What’s the lesson? Buyer beware. Just because it says something like “organic” or “healthy” or “natural” or “recover” on the label doesn’t mean it is good for you so make sure to read the fine print. Better yet try to eat as little processed food as possible or just try to avoid eating something with an ingredient label at all. For the record, a banana has about 100 calories and only 14 grams of sugar so maybe try that next time you are looking to recover.

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Are you a Carboholic?

Sugar is addictive, perhaps more addictive than cocaine. And, the actions it produces in our bodies such as releasing insulin are wreaking havoc on our systems, driving the obesity epidemic and the plague that is known as metabolic syndrome: a pernicious cocktail of high blood pressure and high blood sugar that can lead to stroke, heart disease, diabetes and dementia.

According to an article in the NY Times: “Sugar stimulates brain pathways just as an opioid would, and sugar has been found to be habit-forming in people. Cravings induced by sugar are comparable to those induced by addictive drugs like cocaine and nicotine. And although other food components may also be pleasurable, sugar may be uniquely addictive in the food world.”

The article continues: “Today added sugar is everywhere, used in approximately 75 percent of packaged foods purchased in the United States. The average American consumes anywhere from a quarter to a half pound of sugar a day. If you consider that the added sugar in a single can of soda might be more than most people would have consumed in an entire year, just a few hundred years ago, you get a sense of how dramatically our environment has changed. The sweet craving that once offered a survival advantage now works against us.”

In another article in the NY Times by renowned science writer Gary Taubes, it states “Since insulin levels after meals are determined largely by the carbohydrates we eat — particularly easily digestible grains and starches, known as high glycemic index carbohydrates, as well as sugars like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup — diets based on this approach specifically target these carbohydrates. If we don’t want to stay fat or get fatter, we don’t eat them.”

“This effect of insulin on fat and carbohydrate metabolism offers an explanation for why these same carbohydrates, as Dr. Ludwig says, are typically the foods we crave most; why a little “slip,” as addiction specialists would call it, could so easily lead to a binge.”

So what do we carboholics do? The easiest thing to say is to just stop eating sugar. But unfortunately this is as difficult or more as quitting smoking or worse. You can’t just stop eating sugar. You need to start doing other healthier things in return like eating more healthy natural foods: fats and proteins to reduce the cravings and put you back in charge of your life.

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